Convene On Site

Cleveland’s Got the Beat

Cleveland Rocks is the most popular meeting theme that groups choose when they meet in Ohio's largest metropolitan area, and for good reason.

Often referred to as “The Rock ‘n’ Roll Capital of the World” – the term “rock and roll” was first coined there back in 1951 — Cleveland was abuzz with sightings of Guns N’ Roses and the Red Hot Chili Peppers when I arrived in early April for a three-day fam trip for trade media and meeting planners, hosted by Positively Cleveland. We were in town to participate in the 27th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and to experience first hand what keeps this city jumping.

After checking into the 175-room Residence Inn by Marriott Cleveland Downtown, we walked a quick block to the House of Blues Cleveland for dinner and drinks in the funky, Persian-rug-covered Foundation Room. On East 4th Street, a hip strip of an alleyway in the revived Gateway District, the House of Blues is next door to Iron Chef Michael Symon’s Lola Bistro, where the wine list is delivered via iPad, and The Greenhouse Tavern, named one of Bon Appetit’s “Top Ten Best New Restaurants of America” in 2009. Noticeably absent from this street, and much of downtown, are cookie-cutter restaurant chains and could-be-any-city high-rise buildings. Instead, many hotels are gorgeous, turn-of-the-century historic landmarks, such as the 293-room Hyatt Regency Cleveland at The Arcade, famous for its sunlit “Crystal Palace” atrium.

Cleveland proper sits on the shore of Lake Erie and is currently undergoing a $2-billion transformation, which will reshape everything from its hotel inventory to its attractions and meeting venues. In the heart of downtown, across from the Quicken Loans Arena, the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland opened last month, and a number of new meeting hotels are also in the works, including the 481-room Westin Cleveland Convention Center, set to open in 2013.

Next year is also when the highly anticipated Cleveland Medical Mart & Convention Center (MMCC) will debut. On the second day of our trip, we took a hard-hat tour of this hybrid facility. Building off Cleveland’s strong health-care infrastructure — which includes the Cleveland Clinic and a number of other hospital systems — the Cleveland MMCC is the first facility of its kind to specifically target the health-care industry. The building will consist of two parts: a 235,000-square-foot medical mart with permanent showrooms spotlighting the latest in medical technologies, and an adjacent convention center with 230,000 square feet of exhibit space, 90,000 square feet of meeting rooms, and a 30,000-square-foot ballroom. Within a few feet of the facility, visitors will find many of Cleveland’s most popular attractions and hotels, including the Cleveland Browns stadium, the Great Lakes Science Center, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and historic Cleveland Public Hall.

After two days of site visits and tours, we kicked off our final night with a Guns N’ Roses “Welcome to the Jungle”-themed cocktail reception and dinner at the InterContinental Cleveland Hotel and Conference Center. Part of InterContinental Cleveland’s trio of properties on the Cleveland Clinic campus, the hotel caters to medical and other groups with high-tech needs with a 500-seat, state-of-the-art amphitheater and a 35,000-square-foot conference center.

We ended the weekend on a high note at the 10,000-seat Cleveland Public Hall auditorium, watching the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which featured legendary Smokey Robinson as a presenter, and performances by ZZ Top, Donovan, and John Mellencamp. As we rocked until the wee hours of Sunday morning, it occurred to me that the Beastie Boys could very well change their hit song to “No Sleep Till Cleveland.”

Jennifer N. Dienst

Contributing Editor Jennifer N. Dienst is a freelance writer based in Charleston, South Carolina.